This post was co-authored by Chicago City Treasurer Kurt A. Summers, Jr. and Brad McConnell, CEO of Accion serving Illinois & Northwest Indiana.
It’s difficult for most small businesses to obtain a loan. Just ask Margo Strotter, owner of Ain’t She Sweet Cafe, which now has two locations–one in Bronzeville and one in Beverly.
When Margo was starting out she was her own bank, but she knew that wasn’t a long-term solution to her capital needs so she eventually sought help from traditional lenders. Unfortunately, those institutions were either unwilling or unable to help Margo.
Then she had a breakthrough. While attending an event at the Urban League, Margo was put in touch with Accion, a lender that is committed to helping small businesses, particularly those in underserved communities. She ended up receiving two loans from Accion over the years: The first helped her get her business off the ground, the second came 10 years later and allowed her to expand to a second location.
In Chicagoland, there are a lot of Margos. In fact, the area is home to more than 230,000 small firms, making it the country’s third-largest small business hub. And yet, as big banks focus on big businesses, it has become harder and harder for Chicago’s small business owners and entrepreneurs to secure reasonable loans from responsible lenders.